The Board of Directors of the Little Rock School District held its regularly scheduled meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 16, 2004, in the Boardroom of the Administration Building, 810 West Markham Street, Little Rock, Arkansas. President Larry Berkley presided.
Roy G. Brooks, Superintendent of Schools
Beverly Griffin, Recorder of Minutes
I. CALL TO ORDER / ROLL CALL
Mr. Berkley called the meeting to order at 5:35 p.m. Six members of the Board were present at roll call; Dr. Daugherty arrived at 6:00 p.m. In addition, ex officio representatives for the month of December were also present: Teacher, Leslie Herrington, and Student, Reginald Cleaver, both from Parkview Magnet High School.
II. PROCEDURAL MATTERS / WELCOMING COMMENTS
Mr. Berkley welcomed the audience and introduced the Rockefeller Elementary School show choir for a musical performance. Sandra Young, music teacher at Rockefeller, directed the choir, and Principal Ann Mangan was present.
III. REPORTS/RECOGNITIONS/PUBLIC COMMENTS
Prior to the meeting, a reception was held to recognize National Merit Semifinalists, National Achievement Semifinalists and National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholars. Dr. Brooks congratulated these students for their achievement and thanked them for attending the reception.
Sharra Hampton, guidance counselor at Baseline Elementary School; Barbara Kennedy, media specialist at Dodd Elementary School; Sabrina Kessler, literacy coach at Mabelvale Elementary School; and Mary Zies, music teacher at M. L. King Elementary School were recognized and presented with a superintendent’s citation for achieving certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
Keenan Williams, president of the LRSD Peer Helpers Advisory Council, made a special presentation to Arkansas Rice Depot. Teresa Overley, representing the Board of Directors of the Rice Depot, was present to accept. This year’s project of the LRSD Peer Helpers was to provide backpacks full of healthy snacks to LRSD children. Keenan reported that many of our children depend on the school lunch program for their main meal of the day and many were arriving at school on Monday morning hungry. The Peer Helpers work with the Rice Depot to provide backpacks of food for these students to take home with them on Friday afternoons. They return the empty backpacks on Monday, to be refilled for the following weekend.
Jeff Smith, teacher at Mabelvale Magnet Middle School, and his students were recognized for receiving first place in this year’s LRSD Career Orientation Quiz Bowl.
“Life Interrupted” Project coordinators, Vicki Gonterman, Susan Purvis, Pat Luzzi, Amanda Linn, and Dr. Kristin Mann were introduced to the Board. These educators participated in developing a historical documentation of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II in two relocation centers here in Arkansas. They worked collaboratively to develop the curriculum on this subject that went to every school in Arkansas. Gibbs teachers, Ms. Gonterman and Ms. Purvis, guided their students in making a quilt depicting the lives of the internees at the camps. This quilt is on permanent display at the Cox Center of the Central Arkansas Library Center.
Susan Purvis was further recognized for recently being named the Elementary Art Educator of the Year by Arkansas Art Educators.
Steven Wise was introduced to the Board. He was recently appointed to the position of Assistant Principal at J. A. Fair High School.
The final citations were presented to ex-officio representatives to the Board for the month of December, Leslie Herrington, teacher, and student Reginald Cleaver, both from Parkview Magnet High School.
Rocio Hlass, introduced herself to the Board and thanked Dr. Brooks for working with members of the Hispanic community to increase the District’s efforts to communicate better with non-English speaking parents and students.
Terrence Bolden addressed the Board as chairman of the Concerned Citizens United, member of the Mitchell School PTA, and officer of the Wright Avenue Neighborhood Association. He appealed to the Board to deny the administrations recommendation to close Mitchell and stated that the Board would be breaking their promise to the community if the school is closed.
Annie Abrams echoed Mr. Bolden’s comments and stated that trust with the Mitchell Community had been violated and promises had been broken. She has lived in the Mitchell community for 36 years and felt that poor decisions, non-equity in distribution of resources, and a history of poor staffing had led to the poor conditions at Mitchell and other schools that had been closed in the past.
Leon Modeste reported that he serves on the board of Concerned Citizens United. He stated opposition to the closing of Mitchell and Fair Park, and stated that the board had been insensitive to the members of the African American community. He questioned the Board regarding the impact on the “bottom line” if there were mass absences of children in the Mitchell Community.
John Gerard stated that he had attended the community meeting at Stephens Elementary the previous week. He had stated at both meetings that Dr. Brooks was making a bad decision by recommending the closure of Mitchell.
Melanie Fox, parent from the Forest Park community stated her support for Dr. Brooks and the Board. She acknowledged that it was a difficult decision, but that the paper had quoted the figures of $10,000+ per student per year to educate a student at Mitchell, and $7,000+ per student to operate Fair Park.
Ms. Fox took exception to the “fair and equitable” argument, stating that it wasn’t fair or equitable to the other 25,000+ students in the District to continue to drain the resources of the entire district to support these two small schools.
George Blevins asked the Board why the issue of closing Mitchell continues to be addressed. He revisited a commitment made at a press conference several years ago when the community was promised that the school would not be closed. He suggested that Mitchell was being sacrificed so that a new school could be built in the western part of the District.
Patricia McGraw stated that she was chair of the Education Committee of the NAACP, and a social advocate for the Mitchell community. She reviewed the historical relationship of Mitchell school to the community, when students were educated in separate facilities for Black and White students. She asked the Board to be fair, congenial, intelligent, honorable, and to exercise sound judgment in making their decision.
State Representative John Lewellen and Representative-elect Wilhelmina Lewellen each addressed the board in opposition to the closing of Mitchell. Mr. Lewellen noted that he had represented the Mitchell community for over ten years, and had relied upon promises the Board had made in the past regarding improvements to the Mitchell facility. He stated that the Board had breached the public trust and that the LRSD could expect to be back in court over the administration of the public schools.
Mrs. Lewellan asked as a parent, grandparent and as a former teacher in the LRSD, for the Board to show compassion and “do-right” when making their decision regarding Mitchell School. She stated that citizens in the Mitchell community had been overlooked for many years by the city of Little Rock and by the LRSD, and that revitalization was taking place to stabilize the neighborhood.
Grainger Ledbetter addressed the Board briefly regarding comments made in a previous Board meeting by Special Education teachers in the District. He reported that Dr. Brooks and Dr. Olivine Roberts had met with CTA representatives to initiate a process for resolving the issues, identifying the problems that exist, and developing a solution that will be beneficial to all parties. He thanked Dr. Brooks for his quick response to their concerns.
IV. REPORTS AND COMMUNICATIONS
Mrs. Strickland wished the audience and fellow Board members a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. She thanked the staff for their hard work and stated her appreciation for the work they do for the children of our District.
Dr. Daugherty addressed concerns expressed by the Mitchell citizens, stating that it was sad and unfortunate when tempers flare, negative comments are made, and when people are made to feel that the Board is indifferent to their concerns. He asked that everyone show respect for one another regardless of the outcome and that issues be resolved without belittling comments and accusations.
Mr. Rose wished the audience a happy holiday. He acknowledged and congratulated the Peer Helpers who presented earlier in the meeting. He praised their efforts to alleviate hunger through the Backpack Project with the Arkansas Rice Depot. He asked the audience to think about those who go to bed hungry at night and to do what they can to alleviate hunger in our city. He closed by thanking the LRSD for providing a quality education for his daughter and for all the students in our city.
Mr. Kurrus thanked Dr. Daugherty for his remarks regarding the Mitchell decision. He congratulated the Central High School football team, and expressed his pride in the manner in which they conducted themselves in victory. He thanked the Peer Helpers for their backpack project and for taking the time to come and let the Board know what they are doing.
He thanked the administration and the faculty and staff at Forest Heights for the quality music program; he noted that his son is playing the saxophone. He reported that the annual Christmas program at Forest Heights was very impressive and that he was proud of the education his children were receiving in the LRSD. He noted that 95% of the students at Forest Heights had scored proficient on the end-of-course Algebra exams. He closed by asking the audience and those who had spoken earlier in the meeting to consider how they would treat others if they didn’t know what color they were.
Dr. Mitchell commended the children in the Rockefeller Show Choir, especially the amazing voice of the little girl who sang solo. Dr. Mitchell stated that she had continued in her 15 years on the Board because she enjoys working with the people in the district and because she wants every child to get what they need to be successful.
Dr. Mitchell asked the audience to focus on the positives and to stop lingering on the negatives, saying that too much energy was wasted on “beating up” on each other. She congratulated the teachers who had completed the National Board certification program, noting that it required a great deal of hard work and sacrifice to achieve the rigorous requirements. She also congratulated the Peer Helpers and the students who had achieved National Merit Achievement awards. She encouraged them to continue to do well and to set an example for their peers.
Mr. Berkley directed his comments to members of the audience who had spoken negatively about Superintendent Brooks. He stressed that all Board members, the Superintendent, and LRSD administrators and staff were all focused and intent on doing the right thing for students. He noted that he had seen many Superintendents come and go, but that he could not recall one who was more passionate and dedicated to improving the achievement levels of all the students.
SUSPENSION OF THE RULES:
Mr. Day requested a suspension of the rules to consider reordering the agenda and moving action under VIII. Business Services, A. Mitchell Elementary School, and B. Fair Park Elementary School to this point in the agenda. Mr. Rose seconded the motion to suspend the rules and it carried unanimously.
A. Mitchell Elementary School
Mitchell Elementary School was constructed in 1908, and has a capacity of 283 students. As of October 1, 2004, only 125 of the 156 students enrolled at Mitchell lived within the attendance zone. The Board approved funding for renovations and repairs at Mitchell, and $356,395 was spent in 2004 for asbestos removal and moisture and mold remediation. Operating schools with low enrollment has been a concern of the District for several years, and the Board adopted Policy FBC in May 2000, that allowed consideration for school closings based on excessive cost of operations and low or declining enrollment. Over the years, several schools in similar situations have been closed, including the old Stephens School, Garland, Badgett, and Ish.
The administration recommended working with the community to develop other options for utilizing the Mitchell facility in the future. Closing of Mitchell Academy would become effective at the beginning of the 2005-06 school year.
Dr. Mitchell requested a reading of Policy FBC - Closing of Schools. Mr. Day read the policy and Dr. Mitchell questioned whether the twelve months notification specified in the policy had been considered when developing the recommendation for closure. Mr. Berkley responded by saying that the discussion regarding conditions at Mitchell had been on-going for several years and that sufficient notification had been provided over the course of several years.
Ms. Strickland made a motion to uphold the administration’s recommendation to close Mitchell School. Mr. Day seconded the motion.
There was a great deal of discussion regarding the issue of closing the school. Mr. Kurrus spoke in favor of the motion, noting that it was a data-driven decision based on factual information. He had driven the route from Mitchell to Stephens, M. L. King and Washington Elementary Schools to determine if this would be an unreasonable distance for students who currently attend Mitchell. He had found that it was less than two miles, and less than six minutes to travel from Mitchell to any of the other three locations. Mr. Kurrus detailed the excellence of the facilities where the Mitchell students would be reassigned, noting that these schools have state of the art computer labs, new and up-to-date classroom space, and would provide quality educational programs for the children in the Mitchell zone. He asked members of the Mitchell community to work with the LRSD to find another use for the building.
Mr. Kurrus also reported on the overcrowded conditions at Fulbright and Terry Elementary Schools, noting that building a school in west Little Rock had nothing to do with the decision to close Mitchell.
Dr. Daugherty spoke in opposition to the motion, saying that it wasn’t in the best interest of the District to close small schools where there was a great deal of community support. He questioned whether the data that had been provided were factual, saying that there were “too many differences” between the estimates received.
Dr. Daugherty offered an amendment to the motion on the floor. The amendment stated that the District abandon attempts to close Mitchell at this time and to continue to operate Mitchell until a re-evaluation of the estimates for renovations could be determined. Dr. Mitchell seconded the amendment. The motion to amend failed by a vote of 2-5, with Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Daugherty casting the “yes” votes.
Mr. Day continued the discussion supporting the original motion, asking the community to help the Board in their efforts to do what is best for the District as a whole. He stated that the Mitchell and Fair Park buildings would continue to be a vital part of the community as long as there was commitment on the part of the city, the District and members of the community to work together to find options for use.
Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Daugherty continued to voice opposition to the motion. Dr. Mitchell stated that this had been one of the most divisive issues she had experienced during her term on the Board. She felt that the Board was breaking a promise to the Mitchell community by voting to close the school. She also expressed questions regarding the specific plans for the Fair Park Early Childhood Center, stating that many children who would qualify to attend Fair Park would not attend because of transportation restrictions. She stated that she would not support the recommendation because the Board was not following its’ own policy regarding closing of the schools.
Dr. Daugherty questioned why the west Little Rock Schools were overcrowded, and why these parents would not bus their children into the inner city schools where there are available seats. He noted that most parents prefer to send their children to schools close to their home, in their own neighborhood.
Mr. Berkley spoke in favor of the motion by describing changes in the housing patterns of the city and the challenges faced by the District in maintaining a viable public entity. When making difficult financial decisions, such as the issue on the table, he stated, “It becomes necessary for the Board to determine the wisest use of the public’s money.” The sole purpose of this Board should be making the decisions that will provide the greatest amount of support for improving academic achievement. Taking large sums from the budget to support schools with very few students is not economically wise.
The vote was called for the motion on the floor, and it passed 5-2, with Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Daugherty casting the “no” votes.
B. Fair Park Elementary School
The administration’s recommendation to convert Fair Park Elementary School to an Early Childhood Education Center was based on circumstances similar to the Mitchell School recommendation.
The school has a capacity of 304, but had only 187 students enrolled as of October 1, 2004. It was reported that bond funds had been expended to replace the heating and ventilation system, remove asbestos, and install energy efficient lighting. Approximately $800,000 remains in the bond fund and would be used to convert the facility for use as an Early Childhood Center.
Mrs. Strickland made a motion to support the administration’s recommendation to convert Fair Park from a pre-K through fifth grade school to an Early Childhood Education Center. Mr. Rose seconded the motion.
Dr. Mitchell asked several questions regarding planning and implementation of a Pre-K Early Childhood Center. Specifically, she asked whether children younger than four years of age would be served, and how much it would cost the district to operate the program. Dr. Brooks responded that administrators were working to develop a full plan that would be presented for the Board’s review and approval at a later date.
Mrs. Strickland and Mr. Kurrus spoke in favor of the recommendation, stating that this was an innovative, courageous, and positive step forward for the District.
The motion carried 5-2, with Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Daugherty casting the “no” votes.
C. Donations of Property
The Board was asked to approve the acceptance of recent donations to schools and departments within the District. The donations are listed in the following chart. Reginald Cleaver, student ex officio, read the items listed in the Board’s agenda. Dr. Daugherty made a motion to accept the donated items; Ms. Strickland seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.
Bale Elementary School
$1,000 cash for the school activity fund
Payless Shoe Source / Business – School Partnership Program
Central High School
$300 cash to the girls basketball program
$250 cash to the girls basketball program
$250 cash to the art department
$120 cash to be used for student incentives
Ronald Crawford on behalf of the Arkansas Amateur Basketball Foundation
Mr. Rush Harding
Mr. Robert Lyle
Ms. Paula Aultz
Otter Creek Elementary School
$500 cash to be applied toward the purchase of shirts for teachers and staff
Otter Creek Land Company
Romine Elementary School
$200 cash for use by pupil services team to purchase school uniforms and supplies for needy students
$100 cash to be placed in activity fund for Romine Day Treatment Program student incentives
Hunter United Methodist Church, Women’s Unit
Woodruff Elementary School
$16,000 cash to the A+ program for providing arts enrichment activities for students, professional development for teachers and art supplies.
$100 for school supplies
$1,000 cash to be applied toward the construction of “Peaceable Place” mediation garden on the school grounds
$1,250 cash to be applied toward the construction of “Peaceable Place” mediation garden
Arkansas A+ Schools Network
Veterans of Foreign Wars of the US, Lt. Walter E Parker Post #1316
D. Financial Report
The monthly financial summary reports were provided to the Board as part of the printed agenda. Mr. Milhollen was present to review the reports and respond to questions. The Board did not vote to approve or accept the reports.
The Board took a brief recess at 7:30 p.m. and returned at 7:40 p.m. to resume meeting as ordered in the printed agenda.
RETURN TO THE PRINTED AGENDA: The reports were abbreviated at the request of Mr. Day.
Mr. Babbs provided student assignment information and dates for open enrollment.
Mr. Goodman was present. The monthly report was printed in the agenda; no additional information was provided or requested.
Mr. Becker’s report was printed in the Board’s agenda. No additional information was requested.
Lucy Neal presented a review of the technology report printed in the Board’s agenda.
The Board discussed the current position of Internal Auditor and whether any changes or modifications should be made to the reporting or accountability of this position. The Internal Auditor, Mr. Becker, currently reports directly to the Board of Directors. The Board discussed provisions for accountability and evaluation of Mr. Becker’s performance. They reviewed possible identification of objectives and ways in which to measure and evaluate his effectiveness and discussed having more Board involvement and input in planning areas for audit. It was decided that the Board should develop work plans and procedures and that a Board member should be assigned or appointed to work more closely with Mr. Becker to establish responsibilities and monitor his reports.
It was agreed by consensus that the Board’s Secretary would be the liaison between the Board and the Internal Auditor. They would meet regularly to review, plan, and assess progress. The Superintendent would make suggestions for review and audit through the Board’s liaison.
The State legislature will be in session in mid-January and the Board discussed appointing a representative from the District to attend sessions and serve as the Districts Legislative Liaison. The Board agreed that the organizational audit might make a recommendation to appoint or hire an individual to serve in that capacity in the future.
For the present time, the need to have someone now on staff to serve in that capacity is important. Dr. Brooks reported that he was serving on the AASA legislative school finance committee and that he had attended several meetings in preparation for the upcoming general sessions.
In addition, Dr. Brooks reported that he had asked Dennis Glasgow, to attend the sessions, to monitor educational issues, and to report back to the Board on areas of interest or concern. He agreed that it was important to be visible and to make sure we are in contact with our legislative representatives throughout the sessions.
Mr. Kurrus provided a review of current and future tax-increment financing issues. He is in contact with the City of Little Rock when TIF issues are on the table, and he has spoken before the City Board when these matters have been before them for consideration. The current TIF would support development around the Port and it was felt that the current plans were in compliance with all the guidelines adopted by the city for establishing a TIF District. It is important for the LRSD to remain informed to ensure that our interests are protected and that approval of TIF districts does not adversely affect funding of the LRSD.
Minutes from the regular meeting of the Board of Directors held on November 16, 2004 were presented for review and approval. Mr. Day moved to approve the minutes as submitted; Mr. Rose seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.
Dr. Daugherty left the meeting at 8:10 p.m.
A. Quarterly Update with Revised Regulation IL-R
The quarterly update from the Planning, Research and Evaluation Department was completed and prepared for submission to the court as directed by the June 2004 Compliance Remedy.
The submission included regulations to Board policy IL, Program Monitoring, and provided an expanded evaluation agenda, descriptions of the four program evaluations required by Judge Wilson’s order, and resumes of the external evaluators who will assist the PRE staff in conducting the evaluations. The Court required that these regulations be approved by the Board prior to submission to the Court.
Mr. Kurrus moved to approve the submission as requested by the administration. Ms. Strickland seconded the motion and it carried 5-0-0. Mr. Rose was not present during the vote and asked that his vote be recorded as an abstention.
B. Elementary Reading / Language Arts Textbook Adoption
The LRSD Elementary Reading and Language Arts Textbook Selection Committee presented their selections for adoption for Board approval. The Houghton Mifflin Reading / Language Arts Textbook for kindergarten through fifth grade reading was the recommendation of the committee. Copies of the books were available for the Board’s review. Krista Underwood, Director of Early Childhood, was present to review the recommendations and respond to questions from the Board. Mr. Day moved to approve the selected materials as presented. Mr. Kurrus seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.
C. Proposed Changes to Middle / High School Curriculum Programs
Dr. Olivine Roberts presented recommended changes to the Middle and High School Curriculum for the 2005-06 school year as required by Board Policy IG, Curriculum Development, Adoption and Review. The recommended changes were intended to ensure a rigorous curriculum for secondary students and to strengthen the present instructional programs across the District. Mr. Day moved to approve the changes as recommended by the administration. Mr. Kurrus seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.
D. Personnel Changes
Routine personnel changes were printed in the Board’s agenda. Mr. Kurrus moved to approve the report as presented; Ms. Strickland seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.
IX. CLOSING REMARKS
Dr. Brooks reported that the following day, December 17, would be the last school day for students and the last work day for employees prior to the winter break. Students and employees return on January 3.
In addition, the Superintendent announced the dates of the January agenda and board meetings, and reminded the Board that the audit consultants, Klempen and Smith, would be in the District on January 20th and 21st to provide additional review and a report to the Board. He wished the Board and the audience a happy holiday season.
X. EXECUTIVE SESSION:
The Board convened an executive session at 8:25 p.m. to discuss personnel issues. They met first with Superintendent Brooks, and followed with a meeting with Sandy Becker, Internal Auditor.
They returned from Executive Session at 9:30 p.m. and reported that no action had been taken.
There being no further business before the Board, the meeting adjourned at 9:30 p.m. on a motion by Mr. Rose, seconded by Dr. Mitchell.
APPROVED: 01-27-05 Originals Signed by:
Larry Berkley, President
Katherine P. Mitchell, Secretary